Before getting into the countries with the largest royal families, let’s take a moment to discuss what constitutes a royal family.
A royal family is simply defined as the relatives of the ruling king or queen. However, the family members included under the umbrella term “royal family” vary from country to country. In some instances, the royal family includes only the immediate relatives of the person in power. In other cases, the royal family includes a multitude of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Being a member of a royal family is a coveted position and title in most countries, regardless of how much power the actual monarch has. Often, family members fill critical roles in government, politics, and the military.
In total, there are 26 royal families, also known as monarchies, across the globe. Two important differences between all of these royal families are size and power. The monarch of the royal family rules with either absolute (direct) or constitutional (indirect) power. Those ruling with absolute power have the greatest political power and impact on the day-to-day lives of everyday citizens. Monarchs who operate under constitutional power have less political power and serve as more of a figurehead than an actual leader.
The country with the largest royal family is Saudi Arabia
The royal family of Saudi Arabia, the Salmans, is estimated to be comprised of nearly 15,000 family members. This royal family’s size is due to the commonplace practice of polygamy. Due to the family’s large size, they have an enormous amount of power and wealth. As a result, there have been numerous intense battles over the years to either become king or protect the family name. For example, it is not uncommon for kings to be ousted from power due to moral or religious transgressions. In addition, female members of the family have been beheaded for adultery or violating religious customs. There have been multiple inside and outside assassination attempts as well.
The current king also holds the title of prime minister. He is estimated to have a net worth of upwards of $17 billion. In present-day Saudi Arabia, it is common for royal family members to hold governmental cabinet positions. While the current king was put into power based on family lineage, all future kings of the country will follow a different route to the throne. A 2006 decree altered the line of succession into a more formal process. The next king will be selected by a panel of princes rather than by birthright.
Which other families are at the top?
Because the size of royal families in other countries dwarfs in comparison, there are no official statistics on their size.
Nonetheless, there are still plenty of interesting facts about the remaining 25 royal families that span 43 countries around the world. One oft forgotten fact is that, in the past, there were many more monarchies than there are today. While some were deposed or overthrown from power, there are a few who volunteered to bring an end to their own power. Both Russia and France did away with royalty and monarchies altogether in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Perhaps the most shocking fact of all regarding royal families is that the Vatican is considered a monarchy. As a result, Pope Francis has the title of Head Monarch. He rules over the Vatican itself as well as Vatican City. Like the Saudi Arabian monarchy, future popes are chosen and put into power by a group of cardinals from the Vatican. Finally, one of the oldest royal families in the world is the Danish monarchy. This monarchy can be traced back over 1,000 years.